By J Thomas Fussell
Chapter 5: Beverly Meets Mary Sue
Javier Hernandez sat at his kitchen table with his laptop open in front of him. Steam rose from the cup of coffee in his hand. He wanted to go over some notes and dictate a few orders. He hadn’t been far off earlier when he told Bev that a Doctor’s work was never done (or in his case an Orthopedic Surgeon). He was always playing catch-up. Take his next case as a perfect example. A boy had fractured his collar-bone, shoulder-socket, and humerus when he fell from the roof of his family home while helping remove leaves from a gutter. The surgery had been complicated, and became even more so when the boy crashed for no apparent reason. They had saved his life and managed to repair his arm; although, he was going to need additional surgeries and physical therapy to fix everything. The problem was, he had not even thought about that kid in a month. He had dozens of patients, all of which had problems many of which were equally difficult. He had to bring himself back up to speed because he had to consult with the parents in three days about next-steps. It wasn’t like he had forgotten about the kid completely, but details were important.
Javier took a sip of his coffee and punched the computer’s on button. As the warm liquid slid down his throat, a frantic knock at his front door startled him and he almost spilled his coffee. He swallowed hard but didn’t choke. The frantic knock echoed through his house again followed by the faint sound of someone calling his name. There was panic in that voice. He raced to the front door, feeling his chest tightened. He flung open the door to see Jennifer Lapin in her pajamas and a house-coat. She appeared to have just gotten out of bed. Her breath came in hard spasms.
“What is it, Jennifer? One of the kids? Gerald?” he asked in quick succession.
“No! It’s Bev. She’s been hurt,” Jennifer said. “She’s in our front yard with Gerald. You must come quick!”
“What’s going on?” Alejandro, his son, asked with alarm from the stairs behind him.
“Get the medical kit from under the sink and meet me up the street at the Lapin’s. Go!” Javier said with an authority he knew his son would follow without question. He turned to Jennifer and said, “Take me to her.”
Javier didn’t follow Jennifer any longer than necessary. Once he saw Gerald leaning over his prostrate wife, his jog became a sprint. The Lapin house was five houses up the street from his and the last house on the right. He could hear Gerald saying, “Beverly, it’s going to be alright,” when he was only two houses away. Gerald sounded panicked, and Javier knew right then that it had to be bad. A knot formed in his stomach. Beverly appeared to be writhing uncontrollably. He could see her shivering from twenty yards away. Was she having a seizure? Javier couldn’t tell. In his haste and panic for his wife, he raced up and tossed Gerald aside as if he were a child. He immediately regretted it. Gerald had only been trying to help and had likely saved Bev’s life. He didn’t have time to apologize though; he could deal with hurt feelings later.
“Oh my God, Bev!” Javier cried when he saw her face. He turned to Gerald and said, “Call 911!”
He turned back to Bev. Oh, dear God, she has no eyes. What happened to her eyes? Javier closed his eyes and took a deep breath. In only took a moment for him to switch into a professional mindset. He spoke to her calmly, but firm.
“Beverly, I need you to breath. Take a deep breath. I’ve got you, Love. It’s Ok. Just breath, Baby, just breath.”
He examined her as he tried to sooth her. Her most grievous visible injury was her eyes, but strangely there was no other mutilation to her face. The trauma had not been a slashing motion where her eyes had been torn from her head by a tree branch or some such because there was no torn flesh to either side of the empty sockets. This was no accident. Someone had excised the organs with surgical precision. There were no tears in her outfit, no blood loss to indicate hidden trauma, nothing at all to indicate she had been mauled by some animal. He cradled her gently and felt down the length of her arms and torso. She only moaned once when he passed over her ribs. There his practiced fingers found what was likely a broken rib on her left side.
Beverly relaxed as Javier’s hands moved over her. She recognized those fingers and the way he touched her; although now, she could not see nor remember to whom the hands belonged. She could trust these hands. For a brief moment, the hands and the soft voice helped her forget what had happened, but only for a brief moment. The memories began to flood back, and her body began to shiver again. Her teeth chattered. Then the thing that had taken her eyes reared up in front of her once again, and Beverly began to scream.
The trail materialized out of the fog as if by magic. Beverly had run the loop of the round-about, approaching the trailhead from the left, and veered into the trees without pausing. She knew the trails well and had run one or more of them almost every day since she moved into Silent Glade two years ago when she and Javier married. Aside from Dustin Lapin (Little D), the newest member of the Lapin clan, and Chase and Ginger-Lynn Debrow in 002, she was the most recent arrival to Silent Glade. She adored the exclusive feel, the quiet nights, the neighborhood parties, the stability of it all. It was the first place she had lived since her parent’s home where she felt she belonged. She felt truly at home for the first time in a long time.
The trail wound deep into the forest. The thick fog turned the forest into a fantasy of hidden wonders, shrouded trees, and secret gardens. She knew the trail well, but the fog hid her normal landmarks. Fortunately, the trail was wide and well kept. It was not likely she would get lost. So, it came as a total surprise to Beverly when she rounded a turn in the trail and found herself at a three-way crossroad. She should still have half a mile or so before she reconnected with the trail she came in on. Where had this connector trail come from? Had someone cut a new trail in the woods?
“Well how fun is that?” Beverly asked aloud with a smile. She loved to explore and decided to take the detour and see what she could see.
The trail turned up a small hill and wound its way to the top. Someone had been busy. This trail had not been there the day before. She could be a little ditzy at times – her Mom’s word – but she wouldn’t have miss this. Then it dawned on her; of course, the trail builder had ended at the main trail instead of starting there. That was why she had never seen it before.
The trail ended in a small clearing on top of the hill. The thick fog remained, and she could make out very little around her. On the far side of the clearing, a wide flat stone had been placed on top of two smaller, but still sizable rocks, making a low table. Next to it, a large bush or small tree of some kind rustled in the breeze.
Something about the two objects disturbed Beverly; something wasn’t right. She moved closer. Then it hit her, there was no wind today. The still morning was why the thick fog persisted. She froze in place. There were not too many animals in these woods that represented any real threat: a coyote, maybe a rabid raccoon, or skunk, a wild dog. That was a large bush though and the whole thing was moving and shaking; whatever moved it had to be large. She stopped her approach and crouched slightly, ready to flee at a moment’s notice. She could explore later, maybe with company. The stone table and the bush stood a few dozen feet away. That would not be enough if it were a mad coyote or dog, so she began to back the way she came, keeping her eyes on the bush.
Without warning, something leaped from the bush; or maybe, the whole bush leaped. She couldn’t be sure on that point. The thing landed with a thump next to her. It was easily twice her height. An arm the girth of one of her legs and ending in a giant claw reached out of the mass of whatever clung to the thing. Rough skin the texture of bark and greyish green in color covered that arm. Before she could react, the poised claw grabbed her and lifted her off the ground as if she were a Barbie Doll. She was trapped, wrapped in an ever-tightening grip which was crushing the life from her. Her mind reeled in terror. What the hell was this thing? It couldn’t be real. She took a deep breath and screamed as loudly as she could. Like a constricting snake, the grip tightened and she was unable to inhale again. She grunted as a rib on her left side snapped under the pressure.
The creature lifted her up to its immense face. Beverly tried to scream again as a face from nightmares peered at her from beneath the shroud. She could feel her mind slipping. Nothing like that thing could exist. It had to be a nightmare, it had to be. It drew her closer. Its dank breath washed over her. The smell of rot and decay turned her stomach, but the vice like grip that held her would not let her retch. One yellow eye with a pit of an iris as black as the void of space stared through a mat of hair and leaves.
A raspy voice that seemed to come from everywhere all at once said, “It has pretty eyes, it has. Take them. We must take its eyes. We need them to see. Take them, Sister. Yes, take them.”
The creature carried her to the small stone table and held her down with its huge claw. Another arm appeared from under the creature’s covering. This arm was significantly smaller than the other, almost withered. The claw unfurled like some fungal growth. Three-inch talons ending in needle points shot toward her face and deftly plucked out her left eye. Beverly gurgled a loud and startled cry; it was her last. The creature lifted the orb of her eye to its face and peered at it closely.
“Yes, yes. This will do nicely. And now, the other,” the thing cackled with a sound that was disturbingly like two rocks tumbling together.
Beverly tried to scream as it reached for her again, but the pressure on her chest was too great. As the thing bent over her, what passed for hair fell away from its face. The last thing she ever saw was the mind-numbing visage of the creature’s face above her, glaring at her with hideous concentration. Her mind slipped away as it reached for her. She could not breath; she could not scream. Then, it plucked out her other eye, and she fell into dark oblivion where madness took her in its cold embrace.
Javier was doing everything he could to calm his wife. She seemed so lucid for a moment as if he was getting through, then she started screaming again. He felt something bump him in the back and he turned to see Alejandro standing behind him with the medical bag. Fear made his son looked years younger, like a scared child who has just realized the world is not always a happy place.
Alejandro handed him the medical bag and stepped back. Javier ripped it open and pulled out a small vial of sedative and an unopened syringe. He quickly prepared the injection and delivered it without incident. Fortunately, Beverly was not struggling, only screaming and screaming and screaming. The sedative kicked in within moments, and she began to calm. The screams grew quieter and further apart until they ceased altogether. An ambulance siren could be heard in the distance. Javier checked her pulse and looked up in relief. She was beginning to stabilize. Suddenly, he realized the two of them were surrounded by a small crowd of neighbors.
All eight of the Lapin children clustered around Jennifer and Gerald like an opened Russian nesting doll. All of them topped with platinum or red-blonde hair. This was no sight for the youngest of them. They would have nightmares for weeks, but they all stared transfixed at he and Beverly. Oscar Jackson stood apart and just behind the Lapin family. His dark skin and dark hair in high contrast to the family in front of him. Why didn’t he come help? He had been a medic in Iraq, but he appeared just as transfixed as the terrified kids. Javier stood and looked around him, becoming more and more irritated as he did so. What was wrong with these people? Barry and Ethel Thompson were just joining the circle. Ethel opened her mouth as if to say something and then froze as if unable or unwilling to continue. Barry’s wizened face looked somehow less slack than normal. His stroke two years earlier had affected his facial muscles but fortunately little else. Perhaps most shocking, Kathy Blanchard stood silently next to them. That busybody had not been silent in all the years he had lived here. He didn’t think she was capable. Her husband Mike worked long hours or he would likely have been here too. Even the old lady from across the street stood out by her fence watching intently. What was her name again? Hell, did he even know it. He needed to get out more often. He had not even realized someone had built a home next to the Eastman’s.
He turned back to his wife and took a startled step back. Beverly was sitting up, her back straight and her head held high and regal. How was she even awake? Her hands twisted slowly around each other in her lap. Her mouth hung slack and unmoving. Ever so slowly, she turned her head from left to right, only turning her body when necessary to see behind her. And with empty sockets for eyes, she stared at everyone in turn.
The blare of the ambulance siren broke through the silent crowd like a shockwave. Several people stumbled back as if they had been pulling against an invisible rope.
“Well, I do declare. Lord help us,” Kathy Blanchard blurted.
Barry Thompson moaned and held his hands up in front of him as if warding off some attack.
The youngest three Lapins burst into tears.
Beverly stiffened and then fell back into the grass, finally unconscious.
As the EMT’s wheeled Beverly to the ambulance, Javier glanced at the small house hidden in the trees across the street. The old woman had gone back inside. A shiver rolled up his spine and he suddenly felt sick. The shock and horror of what had happened to Beverly, what someone had done to Beverly, began to settle on him, and the tears started to flow.
To be continued…